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How much of a thing is 'mormon survivalism?


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Just saw thisHarris: Personal reflections on modern apocalyptic Mormon survivalism

Quote

“Over the years my devout Mormon grandparents have given my family and me a year’s supply of MREs, dried foods, and several 72-hour emergency kits, all of which sits in our basement today collecting dust. We are lapsed Mormons and haven’t attended church in years, but my grandparents love us enough so that when the apocalypse comes, we’ll be ready.”

So begins a reflection on extremist preparations for the apocalypse, written by Madison Harris, a senior history and biomedical sciences double major. Published by Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought in 2021, the reflection is titled “Religious Extremism and Conspiracy: A Student’s Observation.”

I struggle with the idea that food storage is equivalent to "extremism."

I also struggle with the idea that members of the Church store food an anticipation of "the apocalypse."  That seems more like a caricature.  

The Church's teachings about food storage and emergency preparedness are pretty sensible, and have to do more with having food in the event of a job loss or during a natural disaster.  But as with any other correct precept, it can be misconstrued or misapplied.  Hence we get Latter-day Saint "extremism" and "survivialism."  But how prevalent is this, really?

Back to the article:

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Drawing inspiration from Tara Westover’s bestselling New York Times memoir “Educated,” in which Westover discusses how her survivalist Mormon parents embraced a conspiratorial worldview, Harris centers her reflection on the influence of Ezra Taft Benson over modern Mormon thought.

Benson served simultaneously in the United States Cabinet and in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, one of the governing bodies in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Harris writes that “[Benson] believed that God had called him to save the U.S. Constitution from godless forces as part of his ultra-patriotic duty to maintain American exceptionalism – a teaching that many Mormons still embrace today. Ninety-four percent of Mormons believe that the Constitution is divinely inspired, evidence of Benson’s lasting influence…[and] because of Benson’s lasting influence promoting conservatism and conspiracy, Mormons have been faithful Republican voters ever since the early 1970s.”

Thoughts?  Is there a "lasting influence" from Pres. Benson?  And if so, how prevalent is it?

Quote

Harris connects Benson’s lingering influence to a modern apocalyptic Mormon survivalist ethos – the source of her grandparents’ doomsday prepping, and one that drives other members of the Church of Latter-day Saints to stockpile food, weapons and ammunition in preparation for the End Times, when adherents of Mormonism believe worldwide disasters will presage Jesus Christ’s return to Earth.

This sounds more like caricature.  There are all sorts of Latter-day Saint "preppers."  I am one.  But I am not extremist about it.  And I don't do it out of "apocalyptic/doomsday" concerns.  And the Church doesn't teach any such concerns.  And the Church has specifically instructed members of the Church to not stockpile "weapons and ammunition."  See this counsel from Elder Oaks:

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LDS apostle tells Mormons: Stock up on food, not ammo
Following Faith by Peggy Fletcher Stack

Published September 17, 2012 2:29 pm

LDS apostle Dallin H. Oaks cautioned Mormons against joining or supporting "right-wing groups who mistakenly apply prophecies about the last days to promote efforts to form paramilitary or other organizations."

Such groups could "undermine the authority of public officials," Oaks said Sunday at a regional Mormon conference broadcast from the Marriott Center on Brigham Young University's Provo campus, "in the event of extraordinary emergencies or even in cases of simple disagreement with government policy."

Latter-day Saints should not "substitute [their] own organizations for the political and military authorities put in place by constitutional government and processes," the apostle said.

After all, the LDS Church's food-storage program is about amassing a year's supply of food and water, Oaks reminded the thousands watching in the giant arena, not "arms and ammunition."

Food storage and emergency preparedness measures are sensible and wise.  This article is trying to conflate such counsel with extremism and nascent violence (tying food storage to stockpiling guns and ammo).

Back to the article:

Quote

“I wanted to explore the intersection of religion and conspiracy, particularly how they relate to voting trends, doomsday preppers, and religious fanatics,” Harris shared after the reflection’s publication.

Hmm.  I read the article.  It's . . . not very good.  Long on speculation and innuendo and mindreading, short on facts or fairminded analysis. 

It's mostly a speculative critique of Pres. Benson.  For example, she says: "Because of Benson’s lasting influence promoting conservatism and conspiracy, Mormons have been faithful Republican voters ever since the early 1970s."  I'm not persuaded of this, but would like to see more data.

And this: "Though he died in 1994, his teachings and affiliations with the ultraconservative Birch Society linger in the minds of modern Mormons, much to the dismay of current church leadership, which has tried to move the church to the center right politically."  I question this.  Quite a bit, actually.  

To her credit, the author moderates her tone a bit:

Quote

In fact, my grandparents mirror most Mormons, who are neither radical doomsday preppers nor clannish conspiracy theorists. My grandparents, rather, are middle-of-the road members—devout Latter-day Saints but not rigid, preachy or self-righteous. They are conservative Democrats with reasonable emergency food reserves and a healthy perspective on the role of government in our lives. More importantly, they follow the current teachings of the church and are not beholden to any political ideology or cause. In my experience, the real outliers in Mormonism are not my grandparents but the Birchers, preppers and conspiracists who are beholden to a political ideology and cause. In my view, they follow President Benson more than they follow current President Russell M. Nelson and they continue to promote Benson’s conspiracy theories, even when the church has tried to move on from them.

I’m glad my grandparents never embraced Ezra Taft Benson’s conspiracy theories, although they did prepare my family and me for the End Times.

Perhaps we didn’t escape Benson after all.

This sounds fair, except for the last bit ("for the end times").  I suspect she's imputing motives here.

Thoughts?

Thanks,

-Smac

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Seems as though the author doesn't have a problem that people are doing a certain thing so much as why they are doing it.

 

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1 hour ago, smac97 said:

............................This sounds fair, except for the last bit ("for the end times").  I suspect she's imputing motives here.

Thoughts?...............

Your analysis is correct, Spencer.  As Church President, however, Benson was no longer the raging Bircher, and was far more interested in the Book of Mormon.

Those LDS members who go off the rails into extreme prepping, conspiracy theories, and libertarianism are more of an intermountain West phenomenon than any sort of Gospel-oriented people.  Most of them are poorly educated, poorly informed, and know nothing at all about the Constitution and the rule of law.  I won't mention the names of some of those who are doing hard time in prison right now, but plenty of them have been in the news over the years (some have been discussed on this board), and some are going to be tried in the near future and will likely end up in Federal Prison -- which is where they belong.

Most of them have no idea that the LDS Church is a global Church, most members not even living in America, and most members not speaking English in the home.  We hope that those worldwide members are converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and not to some wild and crazy version of Americana.

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1 hour ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Your analysis is correct, Spencer.  As Church President, however, Benson was no longer the raging Bircher, and was far more interested in the Book of Mormon.

Those LDS members who go off the rails into extreme prepping, conspiracy theories, and libertarianism are more of an intermountain West phenomenon than any sort of Gospel-oriented people.  Most of them are poorly educated, poorly informed, and know nothing at all about the Constitution and the rule of law.  I won't mention the names of some of those who are doing hard time in prison right now, but plenty of them have been in the news over the years (some have been discussed on this board), and some are going to be tried in the near future and will likely end up in Federal Prison -- which is where they belong.

Most of them have no idea that the LDS Church is a global Church, most members not even living in America, and most members not speaking English in the home.  We hope that those worldwide members are converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and not to some wild and crazy version of Americana.

First GF was a Japanese member, her pantry was fully stocked.  Here's the thing, to this day so is mine.  Hawaiian/Local/Asian households i've been to always had something stocked up, esp. rice.  It really wasn't until I became more familiar with culture here that I learned that wasn't always the case.  Here's what I don't get about some of the crazy preppers, LDS or not, if you really want to survive you're going to need a lot more than just ammo and firearms, you're going to need a community that looks out for one another.   
Kinda curious, wasn't it some of the crazy stuff the Nephites pulled that got them killed by the Lamanites in the end?  I look at some of the stuff people here who claim to be religious are pulling and wonder.  Isn't just you guys, it's a lot of people.  Also going to guess the saints who are like this aren't exactly the most generous ones are they?  

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6 minutes ago, poptart said:

First GF was a Japanese member, her pantry was fully stocked.  Here's the thing, to this day so is mine.  Hawaiian/Local/Asian households i've been to always had something stocked up, esp. rice.  It really wasn't until I became more familiar with culture here that I learned that wasn't always the case.  Here's what I don't get about some of the crazy preppers, LDS or not, if you really want to survive you're going to need a lot more than just ammo and firearms, you're going to need a community that looks out for one another.   
Kinda curious, wasn't it some of the crazy stuff the Nephites pulled that got them killed by the Lamanites in the end?  I look at some of the stuff people here who claim to be religious are pulling and wonder.  Isn't just you guys, it's a lot of people.  Also going to guess the saints who are like this aren't exactly the most generous ones are they?  

When I was growing up, my Mom always had large, sealed containers of wheat, and a wheat-grinder.  She was ready, even though the emergency never came.  I think those metal containers were good for thirty years, and she had them longer than that.  Now I have my own basement storage of food sealed in metal containers, with a lot more variety.  Plus plenty of water storage.  Just in case.

I still have neighbors who do canning every year.  They actually know how to grow their own food.  I haven't done any home canning in many years.  When my Mom did it, she would seal with wax.  My favorite was apricots unsealed to eat in midwinter.  She always had wonderful stuff set aside in her pantry.

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14 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

When I was growing up, my Mom always had large, sealed containers of wheat, and a wheat-grinder.  She was ready, even though the emergency never came.  I think those metal containers were good for thirty years, and she had them longer than that.  Now I have my own basement storage of food sealed in metal containers, with a lot more variety.  Plus plenty of water storage.  Just in case.

I still have neighbors who do canning every year.  They actually know how to grow their own food.  I haven't done any home canning in many years.  When my Mom did it, she would seal with wax.  My favorite was apricots unsealed to eat in midwinter.  She always had wonderful stuff set aside in her pantry.

See, this is partially why I rip on privileged people here, back in the day esp. the depression everyone canned.  My father canned stuff as well.   Mom still grows vegetables, I freeze things I cook in the crock pot for future meals.  

People complain about how hard it is to eat healthy yet no one wants to take the time to cook or preserve anything.  

Mmm, had apricots like those, they are good.  Ever had candy divinity?  

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One thing that my LDS heritage gave me is an appreciation of living simply and as self-sufficient as possible.  I keep a rotating food storage,  and I grow a lot of my own food.  I also collect rainwater and generate my own electricity.  It's come in handy multiple times this year due to a couple of quarantines where I didn't need to make a store run.  Also, a few weeks ago an ice storm knocked out power for a couple of days in our county.  But,  my power was always on.  Beyond thre benefits of being prepared,  I actually enjoy growing food and working with the land. 

I attribute a lot of my current lifestyle to my upbringing,  where food storage and gardening was encouraged.  Sure... some take things too far.  But,  I don't recall the church encouraging extreme prepping.  The church's emphasis on being prepared, debt free,  and self- sufficient is right on in my opinion. 

-cacheman

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6 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Your analysis is correct, Spencer.  As Church President, however, Benson was no longer the raging Bircher, and was far more interested in the Book of Mormon.

Those LDS members who go off the rails into extreme prepping, conspiracy theories, and libertarianism are more of an intermountain West phenomenon than any sort of Gospel-oriented people.  Most of them are poorly educated, poorly informed, and know nothing at all about the Constitution and the rule of law.  I won't mention the names of some of those who are doing hard time in prison right now, but plenty of them have been in the news over the years (some have been discussed on this board), and some are going to be tried in the near future and will likely end up in Federal Prison -- which is where they belong.

Most of them have no idea that the LDS Church is a global Church, most members not even living in America, and most members not speaking English in the home.  We hope that those worldwide members are converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and not to some wild and crazy version of Americana.

Libertarianism knows no national boundaries, theoretically speaking.  They don't advocate for the constitution, nor nativism.  One can be, of course, a libertarian who believes in the constitution just like one can be a libertarian, a citizen of France, and follow the rich history of libertarian thought from that country.   Reagan was our president who came closer to libertarianism than anybody else.  He didn't entangle us in foreign wars other than to send some F111s to Lybia.  He taught that "government is the enemy."  Although not much of a religious man he was friends with the Saints.  

I believe that Joseph Smith taught a very early primitive form of libertarianism although the Book of Mormon is steeped in dictatorial monarchism.

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20 minutes ago, Bob Crockett said:

Libertarianism knows no national boundaries, theoretically speaking.  They don't advocate for the constitution, nor nativism.  One can be, of course, a libertarian who believes in the constitution just like one can be a libertarian, a citizen of France, and follow the rich history of libertarian thought from that country.   Reagan was our president who came closer to libertarianism than anybody else.  He didn't entangle us in foreign wars other than to send some F111s to Lybia.  He taught that "government is the enemy."  Although not much of a religious man he was friends with the Saints.  

I believe that Joseph Smith taught a very early primitive form of libertarianism although the Book of Mormon is steeped in dictatorial monarchism.

The operative word in my sentence was "extreme."  I am unconcerned with folks who prepare for the hard times to come in a reasonable way, and who want the govt to just leave them alone.  What concerns me is the tendency to reject Article of Faith #12 and the closely related notion that one must revolt against the govt and overthrow it.  The whole point of the Constitution is to create a govt which is of the people, by the people, and for the people -- which does not need to be overthrown.  Additionally, I think it very wise for the LDS people to be known worldwide as a peaceful, cooperative people who never seek to overthrow local govt.  We do no favor to the Gospel of Jesus Christ or to our missionary efforts if we become militant, hard core extremists of some kind.

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8 hours ago, smac97 said:

Just saw thisHarris: Personal reflections on modern apocalyptic Mormon survivalism

I struggle with the idea that food storage is equivalent to "extremism."

I also struggle with the idea that members of the Church store food an anticipation of "the apocalypse."  That seems more like a caricature.  

The Church's teachings about food storage and emergency preparedness are pretty sensible, and have to do more with having food in the event of a job loss or during a natural disaster.  But as with any other correct precept, it can be misconstrued or misapplied.  Hence we get Latter-day Saint "extremism" and "survivialism."  But how prevalent is this, really?

Back to the article:

Thoughts?  Is there a "lasting influence" from Pres. Benson?  And if so, how prevalent is it?

This sounds more like caricature.  There are all sorts of Latter-day Saint "preppers."  I am one.  But I am not extremist about it.  And I don't do it out of "apocalyptic/doomsday" concerns.  And the Church doesn't teach any such concerns.  And the Church has specifically instructed members of the Church to not stockpile "weapons and ammunition."  See this counsel from Elder Oaks:

Food storage and emergency preparedness measures are sensible and wise.  This article is trying to conflate such counsel with extremism and nascent violence (tying food storage to stockpiling guns and ammo).

Back to the article:

Hmm.  I read the article.  It's . . . not very good.  Long on speculation and innuendo and mindreading, short on facts or fairminded analysis. 

It's mostly a speculative critique of Pres. Benson.  For example, she says: "Because of Benson’s lasting influence promoting conservatism and conspiracy, Mormons have been faithful Republican voters ever since the early 1970s."  I'm not persuaded of this, but would like to see more data.

And this: "Though he died in 1994, his teachings and affiliations with the ultraconservative Birch Society linger in the minds of modern Mormons, much to the dismay of current church leadership, which has tried to move the church to the center right politically."  I question this.  Quite a bit, actually.  

To her credit, the author moderates her tone a bit:

This sounds fair, except for the last bit ("for the end times").  I suspect she's imputing motives here.

Thoughts?

Thanks,

-Smac

People who don't know anything about a religion should not pretend like they do.   

“[Benson] believed that God had called him to save the U.S. Constitution from godless forces as part of his ultra-patriotic duty to maintain American exceptionalism – a teaching that many Mormons still embrace today. Ninety-four percent of Mormons believe that the Constitution is divinely inspired, evidence of Benson’s lasting influence…[and] because of Benson’s lasting influence promoting conservatism and conspiracy, Mormons have been faithful Republican voters ever since the early 1970s.”

So we are supposed to believe that she knows enough about mormonism that she can teach someone something about extremism in the church, when she doesn't know enough to know that the teachings that the constitution is inspired come from our scriptures, not Pres. Benson.  :rolleyes: 

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4 hours ago, poptart said:

See, this is partially why I rip on privileged people here, back in the day esp. the depression everyone canned.  My father canned stuff as well.   Mom still grows vegetables, I freeze things I cook in the crock pot for future meals.  

People complain about how hard it is to eat healthy yet no one wants to take the time to cook or preserve anything.  

Mmm, had apricots like those, they are good.  Ever had candy divinity?  

My Mother made great divinity.  And she often had us kids pulling taffy.  Not necessarily healthy eating, but it sure was fun.  :pirate:

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3 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

My Mother made great divinity.  And she often had us kids pulling taffy.  Not necessarily healthy eating, but it sure was fun.  :pirate:

Oh man divinity is awful for you and hard work to make.  So good though.  Going to guess you know what a lady Baltimore cake is?  Father told me when I was growing up, as a kid you didn't ask what's for dinner, you asked what's for dessert.

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2 minutes ago, poptart said:

Oh man divinity is awful for you and hard work to make.  So good though.  Going to guess you know what a lady Baltimore cake is?  Father told me when I was growing up, as a kid you didn't ask what's for dinner, you asked what's for dessert.

Had to look that one up:  No, Mom never made a Lady Baltimore cake.  However, she would make angel food cake, and she grew her own rhubarb and made wonderful pies with it.  She frequently prepared apple cobbler.

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4 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Had to look that one up:  No, Mom never made a Lady Baltimore cake.  However, she would make angel food cake, and she grew her own rhubarb and made wonderful pies with it.  She frequently prepared apple cobbler.

Sounds like your parents saw similar times my grandparents did, they made and did the same things.  Not sure about rhubarb, assuming they did.  Apple cobbler too.  One of the many stories I heard, everyone would gather round the table after the days work and have dinner together.  Pretty much everyone was either a laborer/farmer or a tradesman of some sort and lived on a block size of land. 

You know, I know i heard about how bad times were in the depression but something else that was passed onto me, considering the times they fled from?  It was paradise.  No drugs, none of the crime, just family and hard work.  TBH, I'm a bit envious, to have that many people around you that cared and had that old fashioned attitude.

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On 4/7/2021 at 7:01 PM, Robert F. Smith said:

The whole point of the Constitution is to create a govt which is of the people, by the people, and for the people -- which does not need to be overthrown.  Additionally, I think it very wise for the LDS people to be known worldwide as a peaceful, cooperative people who never seek to overthrow local govt.  We do no favor to the Gospel of Jesus Christ or to our missionary efforts if we become militant, hard core extremists of some kind.

That may have been the goal but people often fall very short.  The government is a reflection of the people.  If the people are righteous, the government will be righteous.  If the people are wicked, the government will be wicked.  Being hard core or extremist is like the common saying "pay fair share of taxes".   It means different things to different people.  As long as people are not going into debt and not having their political views dominate their lives, I see no problem in it.   Everyone needs to understand a basic fact.  The government is too big and strong for any individual or group of individuals to take down.  It is like a mouse picking a fight against a bear.   Government is very good at destroying itself.   It is a slow process but I see the USA going the same way as the USSR.  We are spending ourselves into financial collapse.  So if one hates the government, just sit back and let the government do what it will do.

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46 minutes ago, carbon dioxide said:

That may have been the goal but people often fall very short.  The government is a reflection of the people.  If the people are righteous, the government will be righteous.  If the people are wicked, the government will be wicked.  Being hard core or extremist is like the common saying "pay fair share of taxes".   It means different things to different people.  As long as people are not going into debt and not having their political views dominate their lives, I see no problem in it.   Everyone needs to understand a basic fact.  The government is too big and strong for any individual or group of individuals to take down.  It is like a mouse picking a fight against a bear.   Government is very good at destroying itself.   It is a slow process but I see the USA going the same way as the USSR.  We are spending ourselves into financial collapse.  So if one hates the government, just sit back and let the government do what it will do.

I am very uncomfortable with such sentiments.  I like the better analogy in which St Peter is giving a tour to a group of new arrivals in Heaven:  He takes them around to see all the sights up there, and then one of the group looks down, sees a beautiful green valley, and innocently asks What is that down there?  Peter, taken by surprise, looks down where Hell should be, and says:  It's those damn Mormons again !!

Those who are too caught up with the things of the world will miss the point, which is, we have a job to do and we do not need to get sidetracked into meaningless blind alleys.  We need to do the Lord's work, come what may.

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1 hour ago, carbon dioxide said:

That may have been the goal but people often fall very short.  The government is a reflection of the people.  If the people are righteous, the government will be righteous.  If the people are wicked, the government will be wicked.  Being hard core or extremist is like the common saying "pay fair share of taxes".   It means different things to different people.  As long as people are not going into debt and not having their political views dominate their lives, I see no problem in it.   Everyone needs to understand a basic fact.  The government is too big and strong for any individual or group of individuals to take down.  It is like a mouse picking a fight against a bear.   Government is very good at destroying itself.   It is a slow process but I see the USA going the same way as the USSR.  We are spending ourselves into financial collapse.  So if one hates the government, just sit back and let the government do what it will do.

 

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1 hour ago, Robert F. Smith said:

I am very uncomfortable with such sentiments.  I like the better analogy in which St Peter is giving a tour to a group of new arrivals in Heaven:  He takes them around to see all the sights up there, and then one of the group looks down, sees a beautiful green valley, and innocently asks What is that down there?  Peter, taken by surprise, looks down where Hell should be, and says:  It's those damn Mormons again !!

Those who are too caught up with the things of the world will miss the point, which is, we have a job to do and we do not need to get sidetracked into meaningless blind alleys.  We need to do the Lord's work, come what may.

Excess in anything is bad.  Even reading the scriptures 24/7 would be a vice.  The question is what is extremist?  I don't know if there is a clear line on it.  If something is occupying your life at the expense of other things, that is a problem. 

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1 hour ago, The Nehor said:

 

Love it.  Sounds like a better idea than engaging in futile attacks.  Better to worry about what we can control and not worry about the things outside of control.  So if something is going on and you need an escape, go to the temple or binge watch Netflix or Marvel.

Edited by carbon dioxide
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9 hours ago, carbon dioxide said:

That may have been the goal but people often fall very short.  The government is a reflection of the people.  If the people are righteous, the government will be righteous.  If the people are wicked, the government will be wicked.  

Governments can become detached from the people, depending on how directly they are able to participate in it. When big money gets too much influence, and would-be voters are disenfranchised, this is not true.

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